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Use of telehealth expands during COVID-19 lockdown

A major development in the digitalization of healthcare has been with telehealth. By deploying advanced telehealth solutions remotely, physicians and medicine providers gain the ability to remotely examine and diagnose patients and they are able to serve more patients in less time.

Considering the U.S. healthcare market, Harmony Healthcare IT undertook a survey of 2,000 U.S. citizens on the topic of telehealth to assess usage rates and to learn more about different experiences with telehealth. Telehealth refers to any method that allows for the secure, remote delivery of medical care to diagnose, treat, or monitor patients. It can include anything from conducting appointments via video conferencing to communicating lab results through secure messaging systems.

The research revealed that one of the drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic was a concern with infection. With this issue, 71 percent of respondents said were fearful to visit a doctor’s office due to the novel coronavirus, which explains why they used a remote health option.

Other reasons for using telehealth, drawn from the survey, are: Convenience, flexibility, shorter waiting times, and Comfort of being at home. In addition, some respondents said it was easier to schedule follow-ups and that, overall, the medic-to-patient communication was much improved.

From those surveyed, it was found that 67 percent of people used telehealth during the first few month of the lockdown. This equated to an average of 2.9 telehealth visits. Prior to the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, the telehealth usage rate was 46 percent.

For those engaging with telehealth for the first time, a high proportion of first-timers were apprehensive about their first telehealth appointment (at 63 percent). However, of this cohort, 72 percent were not put off by the experience.

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The most common reasons for speaking to a doctor via a telehealth platform was for reasons of primary care. This was followed by a need to discuss a heart issue with a cardiologist, followed by the need to see a specialist neurologist, oncologist, otolaryngologist or a dermatologist.

Looking at the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, the survey found that 60 percent of respondents are most likely to continue to use telehealth and 52 percent indicated they would were more likely to their doctor more often, provided they were able to supplement this with some form of telehealth.

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